President’s Memo

AmCham Portraits-106-1200.jpg

Never a dull moment at the Chamber. Over the past month, a strong delegation of AmCham leaders attended our annual Washington DC Doorknock just as U.S.-China trade friction ratcheted higher. Shortly after, AmCham published what we anticipate will become an annual benchmark survey of our members’ views on Hong Kong’s business outlook.

These two key events raised fundamental questions about Hong Kong’s strengths and weaknesses: Overwhelmingly, our survey found that the city retains its competitiveness, but it also clearly signaled concerns that the core values that give Hong Kong its edge are at risk. Meanwhile, the message we heard on Capitol Hill was that Hong Kong is in danger of being dragged under the wheels of rising Sino-U.S. trade tensions.

It is worrying that the understanding of Hong Kong’s unique role as a bedrock of free trade and rule of law in the turbulent seas of Asia’s rising economic power is being battered under choppy waves.

Our mission must be to remind the world that, yes, Hong Kong faces many challenges in projecting its unique identity, but it remains much more than “just another Chinese city,” as some have started to suggest.

For the past 50 years, Hong Kong has played pivotal roles in global connectivity. Our ports fueled the revolution in trade that coincided with China’s opening to the world. In finance, Hong Kong is tied to New York and London through shared business values, legal certainty and language. The city’s open and robust financial infrastructure allowed capital to flow through Asia’s emerging economies, and that dynamic connectivity continues.

With the rise of heavily populated neighbors such as China, Indonesia and Vietnam, it might seem obvious to believe Hong Kong’s role will fade. But we dismiss Hong Kong at our peril. The city holds a unique basket of advantages that incorporate international standards within a crucial geographical crossroads: Rule of law, a globally skilled workforce, windows to both East and West, plus freedom of speech and expression.

Visitors often tell me how much Hong Kong has changed in the past 20 years. I don’t disagree. However, I do remind many that most great cities have also evolved in a multitude of ways. And if history is any indicator, people mustn’t forget that Hong Kong is immensely adaptable when it comes to change and disruption.